June 3, 2007
Drifting ...... Drifting .... Gone!
William Farnum as The Drifter
A snow covered mesa in the middle of no-where. A log cabin in this wilderness, without food or furniture, but with a fire to keep warm by. A drifter, who speaks little english and with a heavy accent, who returns to his childhood home in search of his father. An old man with a conferate cap, also returning to his home after 20 years in prison.
Both are drifters. One young, one old, both from the same log cabin in the middle are nowhere. Both returning to the cabin to find nothing remaining of once beautiful memories.
From sap to frontier western in a matter of moments, the scene goes from an empty log cabin to a saloon in the heart of town. The drifter quickly makes enemies with a man in a black hat and coat, and even more quickly finds him self on the recieving end of the classic line..... "This town ain't big enough for you and me." After the obligatory "better watch your back" theme is played out, The Drifter befriends a man in a white hat, a mutual enemy of the man in black. Turns out this man with the white hat has a beautiful daughter, who quickly catches the eye of our lonely drifter. The plot thickens quickly and efficiently as her fiance confesses to hiring the man in black as security for the local saw-mill, as well as possibly killing the womans father who objects to the wedding.
The stage is set.
The drifter, the man with the white hat, and his new friend from the log cabin versus the the man with the white hats daughter, her fiance, and the man in the black hat. Three against three, fare odds I suppose, especially when the drifter alone out-weighs his 3 nemesis combined by himself.
From family squabbles to bar-room balls in the space of a few seconds, we find ourselves back in the saloon, where the local bar-maid, this films version of Gunsmokes Kitty, fancies herself the wife of The Drifter, and only after talking to him for 3 seconds! If only it were that easy in real life. A beautiful brunette hangs out in the bar, sees a man she instantly wants, and boom, instant couple. Of course, in classic films and real life, and woman who hangs out in a bar is there for one purpose, and it's not sipping whiskey. In any case, for the purposes of this film she's there to float the boat of the drifter non-sexually, as well as give the audience something pleasing to look at in a film filled with men in cloth coats.
Fists fly in the saloon as the drifter beats up a drunk who also has his eyes set on the lovely brunette. And boy, is she lovely. Big clevage, long flowing hair, and the kind of butt you could use as a pilow every night of your life. THe drifter takes her in his arms, and ........well.........who knows. That happens off-screen. Normally I'd say he had his way with her in a private room off screen, however the verry next scene is between him and the lovely daughter of the man in the white hat, who is also his love interest. She just happens to be on her way to church with her father. Having a sex scene, and then having the very next spot be about church... that's a big no-no in early film.
It could be that The Drifter took the bar-maid and had a nice toot with her upstairs, however this is 1932 and at this time the biggest debate in film was how short could Betty Boops skirt be on screen. Such things could not even be hinted at on screen. So, in my humble opinion The Drifter got drunk, enjoyed the company of the lady, and that was that. Especially since were supposed to see him as a worthy love interest to the daughter of the richest man in town. I may be wrong, but am I ever?
The debate of sex is one thing.... especially in early film. However, the very next scene gives rise to the possibility that this film doesn't play by the rules of 1930's film ettiquette. The man in black, evil, vile, always up to no good learns that The Drifter joined The man with the white hat and his daughter in church. With this new knowledge, he goes to kill The Drifter as he sit in church getting the word of God. Killing someone in church! In 1932? WOW. That is a big risk for any film to take before 1960. Here we are in the early 30's, and if I didn't hear it with my own ears I wouldn't have believed it.
Honestly, I love any film that has a preist in it. Seeing that man in the white collar is always a calming influence to me. I know what's become of the priesthood in the last decade, but back in the 1930s you could always trust a priest. The priest in this film is incredibly strong, which is a dreadful shame that he has to sacrifice himself to the man in the black hat. It does serve a purpose however.
Instead of killing The Drifter, the man in the black hat kills the priest by accident. The Drifter takes his gun and kills the man in the black hat in self defense. It's perfectly clear via the looks on the fiance and her would-be groom that they are responsible for the man in blacks appearance to kill the drifter, however, it's also apparent that the fiance, THE DAUGHTER of the real target of the films bad guys, that she is falling in love with The Drifter. She's already responsible for one death. She wants her father dead, however the drifter is swaying her to the side of the white hat. That side is perfectly represented by the drifter, who gives the eulogy at the priests funeral.
The drifter is strong, knows how to be close to God, loves children, and knows how to have a good time. A perfect character in every way possible. If only he spoke clear english, if only.... I'd love to know what he said at the funeral of the priest. It was so well spoken, if only I knew what he said.
With the death of a priest on her conscience, and new feelings of love for the drifter, the daughter of the man with the white hat seeks out our hero. She finds him chopping wood for a local family, who only has a 7 year old girl to do the task. It's to bad that the wood he chopped goes to no use as her mother throws all the wood blocks at him. For some reason she thinks The Drifter is a murderer. Well, it is true, however it was self defense as the man he killed had just killed a priest. Back-woods ethics, I imagine.
After licking his wounds, he sees the daughter of his employer and sweet-talks her. She sweet talks him back a little bit. A kiss can't be far away, it would seem. It's to bad the old bat who chucked the wood at our wood chuck starts screaming at them as they are about to lip-lock. Instead, the drifter has to be satisfied with carving the name of his loved woman in the side of a tree. Not a bad segment, though a little sad, if causing of heart ache.
TWO MONTHS LATER
The Drifter is completely infatuated with Bon Bon,, errr the daughter....the fiance....so many labels for this chick. Turns out her name is Bonnie. After 30 minutes in the film, we finally get her name.
The woman. The daughter of the man in the white hat. The fiance of the man responsible for the death of the priest. The love interest of The Drifter. Her name is Bonnie. And she completely has the heart of The Drifter. Who will she marry? The evil companion to the man in black? Or will she marry The Drifter, who still has no name? I think our drifters friend, you know, the one he met at the beginning of the film who also has no name, the old man, said it best when responsing to The Drifter about his love.
I don't think. I know. Or, to rephrase it, I don't think I know. Nobody knows what will happen next. 40 minutes left to go in the film, a priest is dead, the man who killed him is dead. The Drifter is hated by the townsfolf for avenging the priests murder. The woman he loves is engaged to the man who wants to kill him. Bonnie still wants her father dead. What will happen next? WHAT??
The second half of the film starts off with a walk in the snow by The Drifter and The Old Man. They see Bonnie and her fiance, who now gets a name (Paul) who just picked up there marriage liscense. Bonnie temporarily backs out, putting off the wedding for apparent reasons. Not knowing to go to the dark side, or the side of light, a perfect analogy. The drifter nearly passes out as he sees his beloved with her fiance, and the scene fades to black. Just as the heart of the drifter has turned to black sorrow with heartache.
IT ESCOLATES, THE SHOW-DOWN BEGINS :
WHERE? A SQUARE DANCE .
The drifter declares his love for Bon Bon.
Her fiance enters, and demands to see Bonnies father. He publicly declares that he's going to kill Bonnies father.
Bonnie is asked to make a choice, between her father, and the man who wants to kill him.
The Drifter, his friend The Old Man are moved in as body-guards for the man with the white hat.
While waiting for the show-down, we learn The Drifters real name. Louis BonJon. The old man goes from The Drifter to fix things up between him and Bonnie. Though in an apparent double-cross, upon arriving at Bonnies, who has just declared her love to the drifter to her father, advises Bonnie to marry her fiance. The old man tells Bonnie to be at a certain place the next day, where her fiance will be waiting for her. Why she wouldl want to marry her fiance after just telling her father she loves The Drifter is a mystery, but go figure women. This is a totally perfect setup by the old man, and a wonderful prelude to the films ending.
Because of the planning and antics of The Old Man, Bonnie, The Drifter, Bonnies Fiance Paul, are all in the same place at the same time. An apparent boundry line between Pauls mill and the land owned by Bonnies father. With The Drifter singing and Paul complaining, the scene shifts to the fathers house, where the old man breaks in. In one of the most apparent bloopers I've ever seen in the movies, the time goes from day, to night, to day, back to night again all within a few seconds of the films story-line. This makes it a little hard to follow what's going on, because we don't know exactly how to follow the story. Especially with two story-lines going on at once.
Basically, we have the setup from the old man going on, and we have this breaking and entering going on, all at the same time. However, it is mid-day where The Drifter is, and it's close to mid-night where the old man is, yet these two events are supposedly happening at the same time! YOW!
It turns out the old man is an old partner of the father, the man with the white hat. He'd been setup and sent to prison, his wife and daughter killed, because of his old partner. Now, he's back for revenge. How the old mans partner did not recognize him is another mystery of the film, but alas, as the films story-line difficulties pile up, it doesn't seem to matter. The characters, the story, and setting make it easy to forgive the short-comings of this little gem of a film.
After this point of the film, many bombs drop. Many plot points come together. Actually, more than many, ALL the plot points of the film come together. Exactly who is doing what is explained, and the relationships between The Drifter, Bonnie, The Old Man, Bonnies Father, and Paul The Fiance all become clear.
The Drifters character turns out to be not so clean.
The old man isn't who you thought he was. He isn't who he thought he was. His revenge exacted, he suffers a price for his hubris.
Bonnies father may wear a white hat, but he is far from the good guy in the film.
Bonnie has been setup. Her fiance framed for murder. The drifter, with his mere presence may destroy the reputation of the woman he loves.
Finally, what is the relation between The Drifter and Paul? How will it effect Bonnies decision on who to marry?
How does the film end? Who does Bonnie marry? Is there any justice merrited out for the crimes commited and setup by The Old Man?
There is only one way to find out!
Watch the film.
No cheese here, this is pure Americana. The films story-line progresses forcefully and at a steady pace all along the way. The story keeps your interest, and without any musical emphasis at any point in the film. The acting is so wonderful and to the point, so pure that the film needs no musical score. Yes, The Drifter is a film that is that good.
The film gets a 9 out of 10. It misses a perfect 10 because of the editing, otherwise it would get the 10. Going from day to night to day to night cost it that 1 point, because it happened at the most critical part of the film. This caused undue confusion on the part of the watcher, ME. I hate to be confused!
A movie that goes from being a western to a soap opera. Watch it once. Watch it twice. Watch it three times. You'll need to watch it multiple times because so much happens and there are so many different story-lines running together that to understand it all, well.....you'll need to watch it several times.
So what are you waiting for? Download it and watch it now! You'll never find a better B movie!